NFL teams on Tuesday finalized their 53-man rosters and a host of HBCU football players learned whether they would officially be pros or searching for another opportunity.
HBCU players that made NFL rosters
Bryan Cook Safety, Kansas City Chiefs
People may not recognize the name Bryan Cook because he has spent the past three seasons with the Cincinnati Bearcats.
Prior to playing with Cincinnati, Cook spent two seasons with Howard in the 2017 and 2018 seasons. He recorded 92 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, five interceptions and 12 pass breakups in 21 games with the Bison.
He continued to put up big numbers totaling 96 tackles, five tackles for loss, two interceptions, and nine pass deflections in his final season with Cincinnati.
Cook was taken 62nd overall in the second round by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2022 NFL Draft. He played in all three Chiefs preseason games, with his best performance coming against the Green Bay Packers recording four tackles and an interception.
Joshua Williams DB, Kansas City Chiefs
Fayetteville State defensive back Joshua Williams was the only Division II HBCU rookie that made a final 53-man roster.
Williams was named to the All-CIAA First Team last season in which he tallied 31 tackles, three interceptions and six pass deflections.
The Fayetteville State defensive back received an invite to the NFL Combine and then was taken in the g fourth round of the draft by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Decobie Durant DB, Los Angeles Rams
The reigning MEAC Defensive Player of the Year Decobie Durant has made the final roster for the reigning Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams.
Last season, Durant led the MEAC with 12 pass deflections and tied for second with three interceptions being named to the All-MEAC First Team.
He went on to be selected with the 142nd overall pick in the fourth round of the draft by the Rams.
Ja’Tyre Carter OL, Chicago Bears
Former Southern offensive lineman Ja’Tyre Carter is the only offensive HBCU player that was named to a final NFL roster.
This past season, Carter was named to the All-SWAC Second Team and was selected to play in the Reese’s Senior Bowl.
He was taken by the Chicago Bears with the 226th overall pick in the 7th round of the NFL Draft. He was the first Southern player to be drafted since 2004.
De’Shaan Dixon DE, Jacksonville Jaguars
Former Norfolk State defensive end De’Shaan Dixon is one of two undrafted free agents to make an NFL roster.
Dixon was named to two All-MEAC teams in his college career, including a first team selection this past season. This came on the heels of a season in which he recorded 54 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, and four pass breakups.
Although he did not hear his name called on draft night, the former Spartan was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Markquese Bell DB, Dallas Cowboys
Rounding out the list of players to make NFL rosters is former Florida A&M defensive back Markquese Bell. Bell was a huge presence on a Florida A&M team that was among the top defenses in the country last season.
He finished the season with 95 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, five forced fumbles, and an interception. The Rattlers’ defensive back was named to the All-SWAC First Team.
HBCU players cut by NFL teams
James Houston LB, Detroit Lions
James Houston is the only player that was selected in the NFL draft that was cut from his respective team. A transfer from Florida, Houston played his lone FCS season with Jackson State.
Houston put forth a dominant display recording 70 tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, 16.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles and an interception.
He went on to be selected by the Detroit Lions with the 217th overall pick in the sixth round of the draft.
Ryan McDaniel WR, Jacksonville Jaguars
Former North Carolina Central wide receiver Ryan McDaniel is one of four HBCU wide receivers who were, unfortunately, a part of the final cuts.
The Tulsa transfer finished this past season with 52 receptions for 678 receiving yards and four touchdowns. He was named to the All-MEAC Second Team.
McDaniel was signed by the Jacksonville Jaguars on May 17. He didn’t play a single preseason game and was cut by the team on Aug.16.
Shemar Bridges WR, Baltimore Ravens
Fort Valley State wide receiver Shemar Bridges is the only SIAC player to be picked up by an NFL team.
A transfer from Tusculum, Bridges played in just four games for the Wildcats last season. He amassed 28 receptions for 292 receiving yards and a touchdown.
The Wildcats receiver ended up signing with the Baltimore Ravens and playing in all three preseason games. He had a breakout performance in the team’s preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans tallying four receptions for 62 receiving yards and recording a touchdown.
Bridges was cut by the Ravens as an injury designation.
Jequez Ezzard WR, Washington Commanders
Prior to transferring to Sam Houston State where he helped lead the team to the FCS championship in 2020, Jequez Ezzard was an All-MEAC receiver for Howard.
In 25 games with the Bison, Ezzard posted 75 receptions for 1,956 receiving yards tallying 18 touchdowns. He was named to the All-MEAC First Team in the 2017 and 2018 seasons, respectively.
Ezzard was signed by the Washington Commanders as an undrafted free agent at the conclusion of the draft before being waived on Aug. 17.
Daylen Baldwin, Cleveland Browns
Baldwin previously played for Morgan State and Jackson State before ending his college career with Michigan.
Baldwin began his college career in Baltimore with Morgan State where he spent two seasons playing primarily in his sophomore season. There, he totaled 152 receiving yards on 14 receptions and recorded a touchdown.
He then went on to Jackson State where he played six games in the 2021 spring season. He caught 27 passes for 540 yards and seven touchdowns.
Prior to being cut by Cleveland, Baldwin played in one preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in which he had three catches for 25 yards.